• The lower house of Nepal’s Parliament on June 13th approved a new map of the country, including areas that are claimed by India.
• India and Nepal maintain an open international boundary meaning no visa is required for cross-border movement. The current shape of the 1,751 km long border was established after the Sagauly Treaty of 1816 between Nepal and the British Raj.
How it all started?
• On May 8, India’s defence minister, Rajnath Singh, virtually inaugurated a new 80 km-long road in the Himalayas, connecting to the border with China, at the Lipulekh pass.
• The Nepali government protested immediately, contending that the road crosses territory that it claims and accusing India of changing the status quo without diplomatic consultations.
What impact it will create?
• Immediately after the press release, all the border crossings in Nepal witnessed unusual stoppage of goods and transportation vehicles from India to Nepal, even though most the border crossings had not witnessed substantial border obstruction. This blockade which was likely India’s response to the winning of political power by Nepal’s communists, contributed to isolating the landlocked nation from the outside world at a time when the country was still reeling from ongoing landslides blocking border trade with China following the devastating 2015 Nepal earthquake
• As a landlocked nation, Nepal imports all of its petroleum supplies from India. Roughly 300 fuel trucks enter from India on a normal day, but this had dwindled to a sporadic passage of 5-10 fuel trucks daily since the start of the crisis, though shipments of perishables tike fruits and vegetables had generally been allowed to pass.
• The Great Blockade forced the Kathmandu political leadership to reach out to Beijing and sign a slew of transit and infrastructural agreements with it, Nepal is today better connected by air to Chinese cities than to India
How must India react to this crisis now?
• India best offer Nepal what it wants talk, as China’s political influence grows in Nepal, Beijing may have at least Indirectly, encourage Prime Minister Oli to take a bolder stance against India during the current crisis. Recent examples show how China reportedly mediated between different factions to keep the Communist Party of Nepal (CPN) in power how it put pressure on critical reporting in the Nepali media and how it promoted the authoritarian Governance model of China’s Communist Party.
• Based on their history of friendly relations and driven by pragmatism, it should not be difficult for India and Nepal to think out of the box and find a practical solution. For now, India should let Oli bask in the political glory of having achieved a cartographic victory while nothing changes on the ground.